In my Food and Feelings Workbook I spend a whole juicy chapter talking about guilt, so if you want to know more about this complex emotion, check it out. For now, let’s say that guilt is a feeling that is meant to help you do what you think is right. It taps you on the shoulder when you make mistakes and don’t live up to your standards. Of course, these standards need to be reasonable and should be based on the fact that you are and will always be imperfect.
If you live in a perpetual state of guilt and wrong feeling, every word out of your mouth will be directed toward rectifying this situation. If you were brought up to believe that you were born a sinner and should spend the rest of your life seeking salvation, you are on mission impossible. I’m not here to challenge religious teachings that enhance your life, but mindless adherence to principles that fly in the face of good mental health only keep you locked up in Niceville prison. To break out, you need to rethink what you believe spiritually and make some hard choices. Nice girls tend to think in rigid terms of saint and sinner and good and evil, so make sure that your religious beliefs are healthy enough to support the fact that none of us is all good or all bad.
Guilt is appropriate when you’ve done something wrong, not when you’ve done something right for you that happens not to suit someone else. Life isn’t fair and it never will be. You’ll get hurt, I’ll get hurt, we’ll all get hurt, and guess what? - we’ll all live through it. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: If you hurt someone in the process of taking care of yourself, it’s okay. That is my exception to the Golden Rule. So if you’re in the habit of yessing people to death because you don’t want to feel guilty saying no, you’re going to have to start evaluating whether your guilt is appropriate or not. In fact, saying yes when you mean no (because no is right for you) is what should make you feel guilty. Saying no to take care of yourself shouldn’t prompt a guilt trip but should make you proud. Chew on that for a while.